Saturday, April 12, 2014

Skating's Last Straw? Pt. 1: The Cliff Notes

Role-playing time! You be the voice in italics, and I’ll be... the other one.

What?! No Worlds recap yet?!

Sorry. And this post isn’t going to be about it either.

Wait... maybe you’re just holding out until NBC FINALLY airs its coverage this weekend...

Well, sort of... in that my recap will come sometime after this weekend’s airing (4 to 6 PM ET, preceded by Stars on Ice at 3PM!). But that’s more a coincidence than anything else.

I don’t get it. What could be more important to a figure skating blog than to cover a major event like the World Championships?

I am SO happy you asked.

If you pay attention to the other blogs (as you should!), or the columnists, or the articles of general off-ice news, you might’ve gotten word by now that ISU President Ottavio Cinquanta, aka Speedy, aka Buffoon Intent on Crushing The Sport We Love Into An Unrecognizable Slush, has made yet another attempt to leave his mark on skating while he still has the wherewithal to do it. But as we know by now, damn near any attempt to leave his mark has all the benefit of a deep, ugly scratch on a treasured vinyl record.

Yeah, I’ve heard something about it. Lots of long articles I don’t really have time to read... especially when doing so is only going to upset me.

OK, I get that. In fact I REALLY get that. But what if, in the body of this post, I provided summaries of three of these important articles for you to read instead? And furthermore, what if some of this reading led to a call to action you might be able to get behind, no matter how much time you have to spare?

Go on...

Well, let’s start with Peter Murray at Blazing Blades and his post “Cinquanta’s Leadership—Off the DeepEnd”, who listed (verbatim) Speedy’s seven proposals for change in figure skating... followed by a lovingly crafted explanation of why each proposal is an underscore to just how batshit crazy this “leader” has become.

The proposal lowlights, in (very) short:
-- Preserving the anonymity of judges
-- Creating uniform performance times
-- Eliminating the short program

Concluding and/or bottom line: It’s time for a vote of no confidence for Ottavio Cinquanta and for the ISU Congress to demand his resignation.

To that end, Murray is now circulating a petition you might be interested in signing; find a link for it here. 

Next, let’s move on to Ryan Stevens’ “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Cinquanta?” post on what my newly-teenaged son will tell you is the best-titled skating blog out there

It’s nine paragraphs; here’s the gist of each:
 +     Cinquanta runs the ISU almost like a dictatorship.
+   Casting a spotlight on his ham-handed, extended stay in office, Stevens imagines if George W. Bush had been allowed 4 terms at the top (!).
+   Recalling the early years of Cinquanta, the pros and cons of awarding prize money to Olympic-eligible athletes & its effect on pro skating...
-   How 2002 changed everything. “The one (thing) that has been consistent through the good, bad and ugly figure skating over the last 20 yrs has been Cinquanta’s iron fist rule,” Stevens says.
+      He maintains Cinquanta has little affection for artistry of sport...popularity has dropped... and he stayed in office while two below him were suspended during the Salt Like City judging scandal (and are, incidentally, back involved in the sport today).
-     Where are we today? Stevens asks. Angry, confused... Speedy has essentially dismissed the widely protested results of Ladies in Sochi, instead sending a “letter of personal opinions” to all ISU members  (see previous summary)
-     The cookie cutter programs of today are another result, causing fans to abandon the sport (he includes a quote from his recent Dick Button interview here).
-     The reality of the situation: things aren’t working, and we’re not going to see it get any better until the “next person steps up”.
-      Stevens’ call to action: Contact your ISU rep... address your concerns about Cinquanta's leadership and urge them to take action, save the short program, and  demand accountability and judging that isn't anonymous. Share your opinions and have your say with the people that have voting power and the right to commence impeachment proceedings, because these people have the power to enact real and quantitative change in skating's future...
-      He then follows with a FULL LIST OF COUNTRIES/email addresses for readers to use.

And there’s a great follow-up—real letters that have been written already!—right here:

One more... Monica Friedlander’s article “Skating Chief Puts Short Program on the Chopping Block” which looks at the Short Program proposal specifically. 
Why would the entire figure skating world allow a speed skater with no understanding of figure skating and a clear disdain for its artistic side to constantly change the sport’s rules willy-nilly and in the process drive skating into oblivion? When is enough, enough?—Monica Friedlander

She continues (original article is 17 paragraphs):

-- This proposal, if it goes through, is the “last nail in the sport’s coffin”

-- It makes no sense to abolish the SP, which never caused any controversy... yet keep anonymous judging, which is nothing BUT controversy

-- Cinquanta has always had a determination to make figure skating less artistic/more difficult, ignoring some of the very things that make it what it is

-- Cinquanta came to power at skating’s peak—but ever since he implemented IJS things have been tanking (Well, there are MANY factors as I discussed in Skating on Air but yes, that’s the centerpiece in many minds)

-- Abolishing the SP for no real reason is a blatant abuse of power

-- Explains the difference between previous radical changes (the addition of the SP, the deletion of figures) and this one

-- The many benefits of the SP: its intent, the suspense it builds, it’s a different type of program to see; it’s a showcase for some skaters lacking FS endurance

-- There will be too much pressure if it’s all put into one program... making it even harder to skate clean than it is now

-- Wonders flat-out: Is he mad? More & more in skating community say yes... but...  “Tragically for the sport, the ISU is not much of a democracy, and the chances of Cinquanta’s proposals to fail are slim.”


-- Call to Action: The time is long overdue for the skating community to come together as one and:
  1. Reject Cinquanta’s proposals.
  2. Demand his resignation.
  3. Request that the figure skating and speed skating branches of the ISU be split asunder.

Finally (from Friedlander): “In a sport where everyone fears consequences for their actions and words, the actions suggested above are a lot to ask. But when compared with the likelihood of figure skating being destroyed altogether, what does anyone have left to lose?”

And she is now part of a petition too... hers has the benefit of being backed by Tim Wood and Bill Fauver, two notable names in the sport’s past. Check it out and/or sign it here:

Will these posts/summaries drum up more debates than signatures? And why might it finally be the time when (as Friedlander said) enough is enough? I’ll address these things and more—including additional summaries!—next time.